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The Thirty Minute Rule

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

A big difference between winners and losers is that winners break the 30 minute rule.


That's when the 30 minute clock starts ticking.”

My first job in advertising was a doozy. I had a breakthrough idea. I learned the 30 minute rule. And I got fired. That was the good news.

The bad news is that the 30 minute rule is still here - in boardrooms, the C-suite, and even IT departments. You can find it in universities, laboratories, and everywhere in the media. It's such a basic part of human nature that we almost can't resist it.

But we have to resist it.

That's because the 30 minute rule can contribute to weakened teamwork, poorer collaboration, and eroded trust in leadership. Eventually, this is going to cost the company in people and profits.

So, what is this 30 minute rule and why is it so dangerous?

To understand it, imagine the following scenario - an employee goes to their manager with a great idea, one that could really change things for the better. After sharing it with the manager and discussing it a bit, the employee leaves and the manager starts to think about the idea. That's when the 30 minute clock starts ticking. That's when the "new and fresh" starts to slide towards "simple and obvious".

The manager might start by thinking it's a fresh, new idea and how it might help in different situations, improving the division's performance. After a while, the idea appears a little obvious because it was so easy to apply, which means it couldn't have taken much to think of it in the first place - which means it isn't really a great fresh idea, just an obvious one. The manager continues to integrate this "obvious" idea into the rest of their thinking.

Within 30 minutes, the manager thinks "It's obvious. I have always thought this way so there's really no need to credit anyone with this". The employee gets no credit even though the manager might have added one more thing on the path to their own promotion.

This rule doesn't just apply to employees. It often affects consultants and experts who are hired to help companies. The best consulting relationships are longer term, based on trust and mutual respect. However, the 30 minute rule can undermine this, especially in a bean-counter environment where "value" is being challenged - rather than recognized and encouraged. If it's "obvious", it isn't worth much.

With all that obvious stuff as backdrop, here's how you can turn a potentially negative dynamic into a competitive edge.

When you hear something fresh that can help you or your company, be on the lookout for the 30 minute rule. Neutralize any bias towards thinking it's obvious. Start by thanking the person who shared the idea and, when appropriate, let others know that it helped. Think about how much value it can bring and how it was never obvious, even if it seems more obvious with every passing minute.

When you break the 30 minute rule, it can encourage more ideas, more innovation, and more trust. Just ask all the people who worked with Steve Jobs.

John Parikhal is President of John Parikhal + Associates.


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